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Vacation rental cap 650 or 1,200 or ? San Juan County Council set to recommend April 5

Will the limit on vacation rental permits in the San Juan Islands be 650 or 1,200 or somewhere in between?

On Tuesday, April 5, 2022, San Juan County Council is set to determine the vacation rental cap number for each island. The Community Development staff had presented the Planning Commission's recommendations at the March 8 county council meeting. COUNCIL AGENDA

The PC's recommendations are 650 countywide: 

Three-hundred and thirty-four (334) on Orcas Island;

Two-hundred and twenty-nine (229) on San Juan Island;

Eighty-five (85) on Lopez Island;

Vacation rentals are prohibited on Shaw Island by SJCC 16.45.180(C);

Vacation rentals are prohibited on Waldron Island by SJCC 16.36.060(G); and

Two (2) on all other islands.

The original numbers proposed by the county Council are: 


Countywide: 1,200

Orcas: 500

San Juan: more than the existing number, closer to 500 (similar to Orcas)

Lopez: more than current number (130 at the time) but not as many as San Juan and Orcas Islands

All other islands: undetermined

Another option is to set caps at the number of compliant permits at the date the ordinance is adopted. The number of permits currently issued are shown below. These numbers are expected to increase between before the final adoption of adoption.

Countywide: 1042

Orcas: 508

San Juan: 392

Lopez: 134

All other islands: 8


The County Council must review the draft ordinance a minimum of three times and hold a public hearing prior to adoption. The legislative procedures for modifying Title 18 SJCC are established in SJCC 18.90.020 Legislative procedures. The County Council reviewed the draft ordinance on March 8 and will review it again for a second time on April 5, 2022.

The remaining required steps are outlined below:

1. Council reviews the draft ordinance a third time and sets a public hearing on the proposed vacation rental permit cap [April 19, 2022]

2. Council holds a public hearing and adopts a code amendment ordinance [date proposed by DCD: May 17, 2022]


The current moratorium on vacation rentals of residences and accessory dwelling units in UGAs, hamlets and activity centers is set to expire on July 13, 2022. According to the revised work plan in Resolution 33-2021, this project is expected to be complete in May 2022. This project is currently on-schedule with the work plan. While the moratorium is in effect, no new applications for vacation rental permits in urban growth areas, hamlets, and activity centers are accepted by the County.


1 comment

  • Hawk Pingree Monday, 04 April 2022 09:57 Comment Link Report

    Pick the low number before this gets out of control. Alternatively, require that the owner reside on the property (I believe this is done in Kirkland). Too many vacation rentals by absentee landlords simply gets out of control and ruins things for us full-time residents.


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